I debated whether to pick up the phone and call the people who were on my mind. I do that from time to time. I’ll pick up my phone, scroll through a list of names only to put it back down and resume my daily routines. This time was different though. As I came across her name in my phone, emotions poured out of me as I just stared at what once was. The feeling stayed with me for several minutes as reality sunk in. I couldn’t escape the emotions that consumed me as I struggled to move on to the next contact. Instead, I just stared at her name realizing that I would never have the opportunity to call that number again.
On May 20th, 2009 I lost a friend and comrade to an IED outside of Kabul Afghanistan. For the next several days I couldn’t shake the thought of her from my mind. Memorial Day brought new meaning this year and was another reminder of the connection that she will forever be associated with. Selfishly, I tried to think of every memory of her that I could as a way to remember how much she had meant to me and those around her. As I went through the rolodex of great memories, I could only dwell on the ones that I had missed. I thought about how I never sent her a care package or thought about her much while she was on her deployment. I thought about the times when I came up with excuses every time she had asked me to play tennis. I thought about our broken plans. I thought about the times when I scrolled past her name in my phone and never bothered to make that call. Indeed, the void memories that I didn’t have but “could have” had with her will haunt me for the rest of my life. I am overwhelmed by guilt and regret.
It’s amazing the simplicity of a phone call. Anyone can pick up a phone and touch a few buttons and in an instant get a hold of someone thousands of miles away. Today, we have resorted to less conventional and less personal methods such as email and the like. We pass up on the chance to talk to longtime friends thinking that they will always be there and that their number will never go away. Well…I’ve seen a number go away. Although her name and legacy will never escape my thoughts and prayers, I know I can never go back in time and make the calls that once seemed so easy to make. How ungrateful I was. How many times had I seen a number and blocked it? How many times had I allowed a call to go to voicemail and how many missed calls had I not returned?
How many calls had I not made?
I have a tendency to talk myself out of things. In fact, I’ve actually been quite adept at it. If I’m tired, I know exactly what cards to play to convince myself that I don’t have the energy to do something. When I’m scared about trying something new, I insert streams of my distorted logic to justify my fear. And when I’m thinking about calling back home to friends and family I’ll think more about the time difference and how busy the person on the other end is than about how much I’d really like to catch up.
And so the death of my friend has awakened me to a new appreciation for life. Instead of trying to get out of things, I’ve decided to take chances and simply say “yes,” when otherwise I would have said “no.” Next week my schedule is filled with plans that will encompass new adventures, perhaps some uncomfortable moments but nonetheless experiences that I wouldn’t have had if I hadn’t picked up my phone and reached out.
I picked up my phone today and called one of my best friends. As the phone rang I was nervous since I had not spoken to him in a while. With each ring I wondered if he’d pick up and for a moment, almost wished that it had just gone to voicemail. I was unsure what to say and thought of reasons for this impromptu and perhaps random phone call. I knew that by today’s standards calling a distant friend out of the blue just “because” is more unusual than it is common. After several rings, he picked up the phone and I heard his voice…I let out a sigh of relief. It didn’t seem to matter what we talked about, I was simply glad that I had not passed up on the moment. After almost not making that call, I can honestly say it was the best five minutes that I’ve spent all week. It didn’t take courage or wisdom. It just took a little bit of initiative and two people picking up their phones. I had almost lost sight of what is truly important in life.
I'm damn glad that I made that call today.